How to Change Your Life

 

marykidsarnikoRoll002036www.bartnikowski.com 

Living out loud and laughing is the prescription to life’s monsoons. If you don’t laugh every day your enthusiasm gene dries up. It’s that simple. But it took me decades to figure out. What happened?

I got out of my comfort zone, left my leather couch and plump pillows, and started traveling. And not the way I used to travel; spending $500 a day for trips to Maui, staying in luxury resorts, skiing at Squaw Valley sipping cocktails, jetting off to Bora Bora and scuba diving in the Caribbean.

So there I was in the heart of Palo Alto, California, down the street from Steve Jobs, home of all things silicon chipped, 25 years of a successful photography career: great clients, author of a book, what was missing?

I didn’t know the name of it yet but when my 18-year-old son, Wolf, asked me to visit him in Nepal while he was volunteer teaching I said hell, yes!

Kathmandu. It sounded mystical. A dream destination. So I took 2 months off and left California with 50 rolls of film, my Nikon F-3, and a heart full of wonder and awe on Christmas Day 2005.

Suddenly, the unknown snatched me in its jaws.

It was that exact moment after flying over the Himalayas and seeing my son waiting for me in the tiny Kathmandu airport that my heart leaped into overdrive – this was it! The life of being a vagabond I had always wanted but didn’t know what it was called. The air sparkled with possibility and luminescent light. The atmosphere shown with a prism quality that shivered my nerve endings and made me wake up.

Yes, being on the rooftop of the world made me see the light.

Kathmandu felt like 3rd rock from the sun – everything was different – the food, the light, the people, clothes, statuary, and religion. I’d never been in a tuktuk, or eaten Tibetan momos, never seen such gorgeous people before. Nepal was on the US embassy’s unsafe-don’t-visit list but my son was there. I’d walk through fire to see him.

So I was getting my Nepal visa at the airport paying with US dollars not knowing what I was spending until he told me the exchange rate. I could get a hotel room for $12 a night not $200? And it was clean and quiet too.

I was off and running. Drunk on my own freedom.

In Kathmandu, I taught photography to the staff of the Nepal Youth Foundation. Olga Murray, the charismatic and brilliant founder of NYF invited me to teach after I asked her if I could help and it made my trip to Nepal an experiential dream. But it was real and they even gave me taxi money, instant friendship, and wildly delicious meals.

I fell in love with the staff and it fueled me onwards to lead more projects in other countries; many times receiving room and board to do photography, teach, write or all three.

And I discovered it was fun to work without a thought of money; to be liked for doing what I love to do. Taking photographs, teaching, writing, playing with people, babies, elephants, and laughing. And that’s how I became the CEO of fun.

I’m getting rich with experience on seeing how the world lives outside my former bubble of a life devoted to the almighty buck, cashmere, and comfort.

I’ve had an astounding education in life: being a professional photographer, a published author, a hitchhiking hippie, leading programs at major corporations in the USA, photographing the Dalai Lama, riding elephants bareback in Nepal, and learning how to fall off a surfboard, not to mention all the other crazy capers.

But when people tell you you are nuts that usually means you are on to something wonderful.

The thing is…

There’s no better way to learn how the world works than to roll up your sleeves and get filthy with experience like this. I’ve been stupid, smart, lucky, well-off, broke, mocked, and loved and I’ve learned something from every second of it.

People with more money than I have, ask me how I do it. But it doesn’t take a lot of money to do what I do. Doesn’t take much planning either. I just go where my heart calls me to go. And I discovered after teaching photography and yoga in foreign countries worldwide that I could make a living at it. How?

I started teaching travelers and ex-pats in Dharamsala and boom! I had a pocket full of Indian rupees and noticed I didn’t need to visit the ATM.

That’s when it hit me: I don’t have to go back to the USA to earn money. Scotty, beam me up into the ethers of my greatest dream – being free and discovering the world!

So I went back to the USA sold all my stuff and gave the rest away – no more stress, furniture, insurance, car maintenance or rat race. Poof! All gone.

I’m a permanent traveler now on an open-ended worldwide adventure.

Take the leap and do it now before you think about it too much. Grab the time off for yourself and don’t wait until its been 15 years since you had 3 weeks off in a row like I did.

Start with an easy country like Bali or Thailand, you’ll be safe in an exotic world spending very little money if you enjoy homey guesthouses for $10 to $15 a night. You won’t be inside much anyway.

Spread your wings and take off – you know you want to!

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8 Things to Do in India

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You won’t be reading about the Taj Mahal here. Now, I’m not saying don’t go. But I’d like to inspire you to have experiences in India you can’t have anywhere else but in India.

India confounds me, trips me up, shakes me to the core, and blasts my preconceived ideas every time I show up here. It’s a good thing. My heart is drawn to the Himalayas and this is where I have spent all of my 4 visits here; for months at a time in the northern most states of Ladakh, Himachel Pradesh and Sikkim.

This is where I am called to go.

Don’t go to India for less than a month like I did on my first trip. You’ll soon see that you need at least 6 months to dive into this vast country. But don’t see it all – pick any one of these 8 things to do and you could easily stay in that place for many weeks as I’ve done and I never felt it was too much time in one location.

You realize how much India affects you after you leave her. Just like an old lover. You realize how good they are after its over. And once that happens you’ll keep coming back for more.

I still haven’t seen the Taj Mahal… it’s on my list but I never seem to get to it.

Here’s what has inspired me to stay in India and discover her secrets. Enjoy the journey, you don’t know where it will lead you but that’s most of the fun!

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 Tikse Monastery in Ladakh

High in the ethers of the Himalayas is this ancient monastery. Just down the street is Hemis monastery, so old that even Jesus visited it. You can stay here at Tikse (near Leh) for about $6 a night and the view is drop dead incredible. You even get a bed. The monks do their morning chanting and you can join them or not. Food at the monastery isn’t bad either. Go and go now, this place has a celestial feeling that flows through your veins. Your feet just might lift off the ground. See my video here.

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Go to the International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Ashram. Its the first week of March every year and has a full line up of amazing teachers from all over the world. I have gone to the festival twice. It changed my life. You’ll enjoy being on the banks of the Ganges River in the holy section of Rishikesh, in Ram Jula. Saints and sages have walked here. You can too.

Go to the Golden Temple in Amritsar,

Dharamsala to see the Dalai Lama and

Sikkim, a Northern state of India filled with forests, on the backside of Mount Everest.

Check it out.

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The Golden Temple in Amritsar will knock your eyes out. Here it is in all her midnight glory. Yes that is really gold leaf!

Go see a teaching of the Dalai Lama. ImageYou will be blessed by his love radiance and we all need that.

See more photography of the Dalai Lama and get it for your own delicious projects.

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I travel the world shooting, writing, and teaching and you can do it too.

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